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Letting Go: Transitioning from High School to College


Here at The College of New Jersey, we know that sending a student to college is not an easy thing for either the student or the parent(s). One of the hardest things for the student is to be away from the nurturing atmosphere of the home where her/his physical needs have been taken care of for all of her/his life up until now. Now, the student is in an environment where he or she is responsible for deciding how to spend time: when to eat, sleep, do the laundry, and all the countless little tasks which help to make her/his life away from home easier. It is not easier on the parent(s) because the presence of that other person is sorely missed.

Many books have been written on the subject that gives helpful suggestions for both student and parent(s). One such book is Letting Go: A Parents’ Guide to Understanding the College Years by Karen Levin Coburn and Madge Lawrence Treeger, 3rd edition, Harper Perennial Publisher, 1997 (ISBN 0-06-095244-X). This book contains resources, a bibliography of other related books, and internet addresses for useful information. We understand that you are going through a transition, just like your student. Whether this is your first, middle, last, or only child attending college, it is not the same as your child “going back to school.” The following are a few words of advice to help you and your student develop an adult–to–adult relationship.

Six Healthy Coping Strategies:

  1. Know that what you are feeling is normal!
  2. Surround yourself with supportive and sympathetic family and friends, who understand what you are going through.
  3. You are going to have some “extra time” on your hands. Take that time and pursue some of your interests, hobbies, or activities that you have been waiting 18 years to do!
  4. If you still have children at home, don’t forget about how they feel. They are also dealing with this transition.
  5. Trust your student to make the “right decision” on their own. Listen and guide your student if they ask for your advice, but do not make the decision for him/her.
  6. Try not to overreact, even in a crisis situation. Sometimes all your student needs is a listening and sympathetic ear.